How To Make Sourdough Bread More (or Less) Sour
Wondering how to make your sourdough more or less sour so that you and your family can enjoy the taste? You are at the right place. Most kids prefer a more mild and mellow sourdough bread taste while adults like it to be super sour.
How can you make your sourdough more (or less) sour?
The acidity level of sourdough is mostly determined by the bread’s flavor. There are two acidity levels present in sourdough bread. These levels provide it with different flavors.
- Lactic acid – This acid produces mild flavors like that of yoghurt.
- Acetic acid – This acid produces sour flavors like that of vinegar.
If you increase the level of acetic acid in your sourdough, the amount of sourness in the loaf will also increase.
The benefit of making sourdough bread at home is the ability to adjust the sourness level so that you are able to bake bread containing the right amount of sourness you prefer.
How to Make Sourdough More Sour
Depending on how you handle your sourdough starter to how the shaped dough is proofed before it’s baked, there are a couple of tricks you can use to manipulate the initial flavor of the loaf. The most important thing is to achieve a sourer flavor by using natural methods to increase the level acetic acid in your loaf.
There are different ways of tweaking a sourdough bread recipe so that you are able to manipulate its sourness and this article provides you with 18 ways that you can make your sourdough sourer. However, if you prefer your sourdough bread to be mild, simply do the opposite.
Also in this article is a useful table containing a summary of what can be done during different stages so that you’re able to manipulate how sour the sourdough becomes.
#1. Use Whole Grain Flour
The type of flour used to make sourdough bread significantly affects the level of sourness in the bread. Using whole grain flour increases the level of sourness in the bread even when nothing was changed when the starter was being made.
Since whole grains have complex carbohydrates that are responsible for the production of the bacteria present in acetic acid compared to white flour.
#2. Fermenting the Dough for a Longer Time
When sourdough is left to ferment for a longer time, the more sough it becomes. So, if you’d like your bread to be very sour, make sure that it stays for a prolonged period. During the fermenting process, the dough eats up starches and sugars that are found in the flour. This in turn finishes the sweetness level of the flour and instead leads to an increase in sour flavor. There are bakers that ferment their sourdough for an extra two to three days so that they have a higher level of sourness.
#3. Don’t Enrich the Recipe
Enriched sourdough recipes have ingredients like oil, butter and milk included in them. The additional fats will only make the texture softer and reduce its sourness, leaving you with a milder flavor. So, if you want your dough to be very sour, don’t add such ingredients.
A traditional sourdough recipe comprises only water, flour and salt. If you want to achieve a more sour flavor, keep the recipe simple.
#4. Add Some Rye
Rye flour (and whole rye flour) has quite complex carbohydrates and an outstanding set of enzymes. If you use rye flour to make your sourdough, it will produce some unique sugars that are responsible for a higher level of production of acetic acid.
Rye flour acts as a superfood for sourdough starter. It can be digested easily and contains a lot of nutrients, main reason why bakers use it to make their sourdough starter. Most artisan bakers add 100% rye in their sourdough starter because of its super active ability as well as superiority qualities in rising and forming the perfect sour flavor.
#5. How Much the Sourdough Texture is Fed
If your starter is fed often, it will get a milder flavor. When the starter goes for a longer time without being fed, it develops more acetic acid (or hooch).
Try following a less frequent feeding routine so that the starter can have a more sour flavor. However, make sure that the feeding times aren’t very scarce because so that it doesn’t starve and you end up without any bread.
A mature stater can be fed once after every 2 days so that it can remain active and still be able to provide you with the kind of sourness you want.
#6. Keep the Hooch
Most bakers don’t keep the hooch that matures at the top part of the sourdough starter. This brown liquid is created when the starter doesn’t have food and it contains a lot of sour flavors. Instead of pouring out of the jar, mix it into the starter when you’re feeding it so that there is additional sour flavor.
#7. Additional Oxygen
By mixing your starter you’re helping it to get more oxygen from the environment. Oxygen allows acetic acid to be created which is responsible for the development of more sourdough.
#8. Mature Sourdough Starters
If you’ve been making your starter from scratch, then you know that it doesn’t grow in full depth until it has stayed for a couple of months. When the sourdough starter matures, it has a lot of sour flavor.
Don’t be in a rush, let the sourdough mature over time.
#9. Cooler Temperatures During Fermenting
One of the easiest ways for adjusting the sourdough starter’s flavor is with temperature. When the sourdough is given enough time to ferment, it will get a more sour flavor.
Therefore, one of the best methods to ferment your sourdough for a longer time is to slow down the process by storing it in cool temperatures so that it can ferment slowly.
#10. Feed the Sourdough Starter After It Has Reaches its Peak
The level of sourness is also determined by when it is fed. If you want your starter to be a lot sour, feed it a couple of hours past its peak time. This provides it with more time for the development of the acid that makes it more sour.
If you don’t want it to be very sour then feed it before it reaches its peak.
#11. Check the Water Temperature
If you didn’t know this, the temperature of the water used to make sourdough starter greatly affects the initial flavor. Most recipes recommend you to use warm water so that both the bacteria and yeast are active. It also plays a major role in how sour the starter becomes.
The water should be at least 90 degrees F for your starter to be more sour.[/su_note] CAUTION: Don’t use very hot water because it will just kill your sourdough starter. [/su_note]
#12. Add Lesser Amounts of Sourdough Starter
The amount of sourdough starter used in the dough can also manipulate how sour it becomes. A small amount of sourdough starter will give the dough a more sour flavor. This is possible because the starter goes through the food source slowly allowing it to produce more acid through the whole process.
If you use a lot of sourdough starter it means that your dough will ferment faster. The dough won’t have enough time to develop the required amount of acetic acid. Therefore, the dough will have a lot of acetic acid which will just give it a mild sour flavor like that of yoghurt.
#13. Use Baking Soda
When baking soda is added to the dough it will boost its ability to rise, but since it is very alkaline, it will only neutralize the acids found in the sourdough, resulting in a neutralized flavor as well.
#14. Degas the Sourdough Starter
You can increase the level of sourness in your sourdough starter by degassing it from time to time. This is possible because bacteria will look for new sources of sugar that it can feed on. The dough will then be able to:
- Decrease the level of starch and sugar found in the dough which will result to an increase in sourness.
- Ferment for a prolonged period because the dough can now rise again after it was degassed.
#15. Extend the Final Rise
The fermentation process can also be prolonged by the final rise. After shaping is done, let the bread sit in the fridge or place it in a cool place so that the second rise can happen slowly. This allows the dough to become more sour.
#16. Use a Stiff Sourdough Starter
If the sourdough starter you’re using contains a lower hydration level, it will affect the flavor. If the starter is very wet, it will be able to create a lot of lactic acid enabling the sourdough to have a milder flavor like that of yoghurt.
However, a dry sourdough starter creates a lot of acetic acid, which will give it a lot of flavor. You can adjust the sourness by adjusting the hydration level of the starter until you have your desired flavor.
QUICK TIP: Don’t forget to play around with your recipe to match the adjusted hydration level you want your sourdough starter to have, for instance, if a little water was used, you might have to add more water to the recipe.
#17. Use a Preferment
A preferment is just a bridge between the dough and the starter. This can be done by feeding a big amount of flour to a small amount of starter. You can then use the preferment a couple of hours later as a starter for your recipe instead of a starter itself.
A preferment will not only increase your dough’s rising power, it will also increase the amount of acid which in turn will increase the sourness of the dough.
This is determined by how sour you want your dough to be because the place where it is stored, the taste of your bread also depends on where you live.
The yeast and wild bacteria that are present where you live add quite a unique flavor pallet to your starter. So, if you like the popular San Francisco sourdough loaf, you’re left with no other choice than to move to San Francisco.
Since relocating to a different state because of sourdough isn’t an easy thing to do, you can use any of the other steps to make your starter sour enough from the comfort of your home.
How to Make Sourdough More Sour
Below is a table containing some of the ways you can use to adjust the sourness of sourdough bread. Apply some of them to be able to achieve the desired sourness for your bread.